IBM Buys E-Forms Expertise

The Armonk, N.Y.-based computing giant plans to integrate PureEdge&'s e-forms functionality into IBM Workplace and Lotus products, IBM executives said last week. Interoperability between the higher-level PureEdge forms and native Domino/Notes forms will continue, said Ambuj Goyal, general manager of Workplace, Portal, Lotus and Collaboration Software Products at IBM.

Some IBM partners applauded the deal, citing a need for IBM to better tie together its somewhat-confusing product lines. “We&'d probably start picking up some of that capability by the end of the year. Some of the integration between [IBM&'s] product lines is lacking,” said Jeff Cook, infrastructure solutions architect at Venture SystemSource, Melville, N.Y.

Forms interoperability needs to be baked into the middleware across product lines, Goyal said. “The question becomes: What is needed across the portfolio in middleware and becomes fundamental technology in middleware vs. an app built on top?” he said. “Forms have been part of Lotus software for a long time. But it was built into the client/server technology, and Notes forms could not be integrated across the portfolio.” IBM will continue to team with partners on apps and services around that middleware, he added. The acquisition signals what could be a standards war over e-forms interoperability. IBM, PureEdge, Documentum, SAP and Adobe Systems have pledged support for the Xforms standard. Microsoft, on the other hand, has no current plans to build that support into its Office 12 lineup.

Microsoft&'s InfoPath forms application supports several XML standards, including WSDL, UDDI, XML 1.0 and XSLT. “Additionally, the InfoPath file format, .XSN, is open, published and available via royalty-free license to facilitate openness and enterprise integration,” said Group Product Manager Dan Leach, adding if Microsoft sees demand, it may change course.

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The PureEdge deal could call into question IBM&'s contention that it&'s an infrastructure player and ally of third-party ISVs. IBM Software executives have repeatedly said the company offers a platform for third-party development and claimed Microsoft—with its business solutions and applications—competes with ISVs. Both companies, however, are creeping up the software stack.